Diamond merchants determine the value of each precious stone by judging it by the four Cs of Color, Clarity, Cut and Carat weight. According to the Gemological Institute of America, “Beautiful. Rare. Cherished. Diamonds are the most sought-after gems on earth. Each one is unique. And each has specific qualities that establish its value.”
May I be so bold as to state that I believe that the same is true of each professional salesperson? Ask most business leaders and they will tell you that at the top of their challenge list is acquiring something even more beautiful, rare and cherished than a diamond — top sales pros! This elusive object is both hard to find and extremely sought after. Average reps are easy to find. Mediocre ones aren’t difficult to come across. However, top pros — those are rare indeed. In a moment, we will look at how we can develop our own four Cs to increase the value of the salesperson from commodity to precious and rare.
As I write this, another year is screaming to a close. As you read this, the year 2015 will be in the rearview mirror, along with the results of our 2015 sales efforts, and possibly before we were prepared for it, we have been thrust into a brand new year. I overheard a conversation with some business owners recently discussing “raises” they expect in 2016. For brevity, let me highlight a few of the “raises” they mentioned:
- Manufacturing and production costs — U.S. and elsewhere.
- Healthcare costs.
- Distribution costs.
- Marketing expenses.
- Customer expectations.
- Level of competition.
- Key employee turnover.
They mentioned a few others, but what really struck me at the time was the absence of wages. Now, I have no idea whether they intend to provide raises to the employees or not, but the mere fact that they were more focused on the cost side of the equation than the investment (good people are always an investment, not a cost), they seemed to be laying the foundation for a pretty rough year. And while I don’t disagree that any number of these “raises” may be accurate, I do know that as professional salespeople, sales leaders and revenue generation experts, we have the responsibility to take what is dealt us and play to win. Even when it seems that the deck is stacked against us, especially when it may seem that way, we are obligated to play the very best game we can. And yes, there is a way to stack the deck absolutely in your favor – by developing our own 4 Cs.
First, let’s get it out on the table. Unless you are at some double digit multiplier of quota (and if you are, that will change), few, if any of us are having enough conversations. Especially conversations with the right people. The Challenger Sale (Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson) has been a hot topic in the sales world over the past couple of years. Whether or not you buy into the model as appropriate for the market you are in, it has re-emphasized the difficulties associated with group buying dysfunction. The greater the complexity of your product, service, solution, etc., the greater the number of people participating in the decision – or more often than not, the lack of a decision.
In order to be successful in 2016, sales pros will need to engage and have conversations with more people involved in each sales opportunity. These conversations will need to focus on what is relevant to the prospect’s company objectives, the personal/professional objectives of each participant and it will have to deliver value every step of the way. Canned presentations, pitches and sales decks just won’t do the job anymore.
This means that while you have to have more conversations, you won’t have time to have more conversations. Sort of a Catch-22, isn’t it? In Zen terms, “More becomes less.” OK, I’m not sure that’s actually Zen-esque, but the point is that with the need for so many conversations for each individual opportunity, and each of these discussions requiring a greater degree of customization, top sales pros will be prospecting FEWER companies in 2016, not more. If we are going to deliver value, be that trusted advisor, challenge them by teaching them something new, something relevant, and earn a seat at the grown-up versus kiddie table, we will simply have to invest more time in each deal. Therefore, each deal better be worth the investment of the most precious asset we have, our time.
Which prospects do you need to invest your time in? What are the conversations that need to occur and with whom do you need to engage?
The Oxford Dictionary defines “Collaboration” as “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” Unless what you sell requires no more than the basest form of transaction (“Here’s your pet rock, gimme $10,”) there will likely be the need for collaboration. Or to put it another way, if there isn’t a recognition on your part, and an agreement by the prospect, that you are working jointly to create something, then may I be bold enough to suggest that you close your briefcase, pack up your version of the “How Great Thou Company Is” pitch deck and head back to HQ so that the rest of us professionals can make commerce happen? Seriously, if you and the prospect aren’t striving to create something that they value, what’s the point? Where is the value?
As you look at your 2016 pipeline, ask yourself, “Is each opportunity under development based on working together to create something valuable? What needs to be done to refocus your efforts?
Repeat after me: “There are no shiny things. There are no shiny things.” We all know that there is no shortage of new technologies, marketing concepts, sales software, salves, creams and schemes. Yes, as professional salespeople, we should be looking at new ways to help increase our effectiveness. Yes, we should consider new sales solutions technology. Yes, we should constantly be learning, trying and developing. However, learning, testing and growing is what we do during our development time. During our selling time, we SELL! And that means that we remain focused on conversations and collaboration and value creation— value that the prospect is willing to pay for.
Continue when there are distractions. Continue when “it’s just too hard.” Continue when you don’t want to. Continue when the prospect goes dark. Continue when you miss quota. And here’s a big secret about continuing – continue when everything is going great! What often separates average from great is simply continuing to do the activities with the same degree of intensity over the long haul. Mountaintop times and valley times, both can derail the “continuing.”
- Commit to yourself. Do the hard work. Keep learning and growing. Make success a priority.
- Commit to your prospects. Deliver value.
- Commit to your customers. Do what you say you will. Overdeliver. Encourage.
- Commit to your team. As a revenue generator, you are automatically a leader. A leader of a team. Deliver for them.
What are the things in your life that deserve your commitment? Will you commit to making them a priority in 2016?
Fast forward to December 31, 2016 (it will be here faster than we think) and take just a moment to imagine how great it feels to look back and see how many more deals you closed, how many new customers came on board and how much more money you made than ever before!
Are you committed to continuing to collaborate through conversations designed to add value to those companies who will reward you for your efforts? Of course you are!
This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.
is executive vice president of InkCycle Inc. He is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience. He is an active member of the imaging industry as an author, trainer and speaker. Contact him at email@example.com.